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Book review: Hyperion by Dan Simmons
I consider myself a veteran of science fiction books. I love the excitement I get whenever I enter a world so different from my own, filled with impossible inventions. Yet it’s only recently that I realized how static those worlds are. The characters always seem to take their environment for granted, perfectly accustomed to the same gadgets that impress and intrigue us. It’s as if cars have been flying ever since the first one left its Ford factory, or as if humans have always had computers plugged into their brains.
Any science fiction book worth the ink it’s printed with can construct such a static world, a world that is. Hyperion manages to construct one that has been. In this world, or rather this universe, humans are still changing, adapting to the consequences of their inventions. Fans of the genre will not be disappointed with the arsenal here: spaceships, sentient AIs, and a touch of cyberpunk surfing. Yet the book isn’t about these. It’s about human nature — still immediately recognizable as our own vestigial atavism — amplified to a galactic scale. That is what I love so much about this book. Greed and lust are unleashed in raw abandon, ravaging the universe with unchecked brutality. Yet faith, hope, and love are clung onto with heartbreaking tenacity and surprisingly good humor; I wonder if it is the only way any such virtue could survive.
So perhaps I was wrong to say that Hyperion constructs a world that has been, but instead it introduces us to a band of travelers who have been. They’ve been adapting, coping with lifetimes lost to space travel, with changing senses of self against an ever-shifting backdrop of their universe, and with the same loss and suffering that define us as humans. It is a book of epic personal struggles; I should’ve gotten the hint with its title and all the references to Keats.
After knowing them as the titans they have been, I simply can’t wait to see how they will be.
Hyperion is graphic in violence and passion, which might not be suitable for young readers.
Hyperion is the first in a series of four books, which might not be suitable for impatient readers.
Hyperion is speculative fiction with few hints, which might not be suitable for lazy readers.